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Spanish Museum to Return Two Nazi-Looted Paintings to Poland

The Museum of Pontevedra in northwest Spain will return two paintings that experts said were looted by the Nazis during World War II. El País reports that, before it restitutes the works, the museum has put them on view one last time in a special presentation focused on how the institution resolved the claim that the paintings were looted.

The two paintings are by the Flemish painter Dieric Bouts, who was active during the second half of the 15th century, and are considered a pair as they depict the complementary figures of the Dolorosa (the grieving Virgin Mary) and Ecce Homo (Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thrones).

According to the Spanish news agency EFE, a panel of experts determined that they once belonged to the Czartoryski family, which fled Poland in 1939 and had owned a substantial art collection. Family heirs to the collection have been seeking the return of various works, including a rare Raphael self-portrait that went missing during the war, for decades. In 2016, the Polish state signed an agreement to buy the Czartoryski collection.

[Read about 20 works subject to claims of looting, plundering, and theft.]

After the museum was alerted to the fact that Poland was looking for works that closely resembled the Bouts paintings, experts determined that the canvases shared a “formal similarity” with ones in a photograph shared by the Polish state. The paintings had come to the museum via one of its patrons, José Fernández López, who likely acquired them in a gallery in either Barcelona or Madrid during the 1970s.

César Mosquera, vice president of the Pontevedra city council, told EFE that the museum acquired the works “in good faith,” adding, “It is a pride to be able to return works that come from a very dark origin.”

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